South Carolina has begun to lower its unemployment rate thanks to new and expanding businesses. But it is doing so with no thanks to excessive, duplicative and confusing regulations.
According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), of the 25 most troublesome issues for small businesses, South Carolina ranks in five:
It is No. 4 in uncertainty over government actions; No. 5 in unreasonableness of government actions; No. 16 in state and local paperwork; No. 20 in dealing with tax agencies; and No. 25 in understanding regulatory environments.
Indeed, the New York University School of Law Institute for Police Integrity in 2010 gave South Carolina a "D" for its regulatory review process.
So Gov. Nikki Haley's decision in February to establish a task force to review regulations and recommend improvements was right in line with her "jobs, jobs, jobs" mission.
Now it will be up to the governor and her cabinet directors or, in some cases, the Legislature to consider the task force's suggestions. They should study them carefully and change what ought to be changed.
They should also, however, refrain from being overly hasty in loosening regulations that protect the environment from harmful business practices or protect the public from threats to their health.
For example, it makes sense to rethink a regulation that holds a small-scale honey producer, who sells directly to consumers, to the same standards as large-scale honey companies.
But the task force also recommends changes in the Department of Health and Environmental Control's regulations regarding solid waste facilities. That is a ticklish subject often cast as free enterprise versus residents' well-being. In this strong pro-business climate, residents could lose out if the state isn't careful.
Indeed, Coastal Conservation League Executive Director Dana Beach, a member of the task force, called for much more study before paring back environmental regulations.
The committee's findings, released in November, were drawn after studying 3,122 regulations across 22 state agencies. Most of the recommendations were to change regulations, but some addressed awkward or unnecessary processes, and three addressed the legislative process.
State lawmakers should pay timely heed to those conclusions as they begin a new legislative session this week.
The task force's work should encouragefixes that would make South Carolina more efficient and friendly to small businesses, without sacrificing the natural resources that make those businesses want to come and stay.
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